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Laser-Fueled Drones May Never Have to Land

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Working with wireless power specialists LaserMotive, Lockheed Martin has successfully completed preliminary tests of a new laser refueling system that extended the flight time of its Stalker unmanned aerial drone to over 48 hours.

That not only represents about a 2,400 percent increase in flight duration, but the system also doesn't require another aircraft to deliver the fuel boost. Instead, ground-based lasers—from a mobile vehicle or stable delivery platform—simply target the craft's solar cells while it circles overhead. The initial tests on the Stalker were conducted in a controlled wind tunnel, and at its conclusion the drone's batteries actually had a greater charge than when the test was started. And theoretically, it means the only reason a reconnaissance drone would ever have to land would be for physical maintenance, or if it gets shot down. [Lockheed Martin via Gizmag]